Greater Birmingham Chambers of Commerce
Networking is no easy craft to master, but a sure-fire way of getting many opportunities when done right.
During this international networking week, the Greater Birmingham Chambers of Commerce (GBCC) asked its members and employees for their top three networking tips.
After receiving more than 40 tips from our top networkers across the area, we were able to summarise all of them into 12 simple tips that businesses will surely find useful.
1 Avoid the temptation of having a sales pitch – Henrietta Brealey, CEO of GBCC
“Networking is not about sales pitches. It's about building professional relationships – your network. When you meet new contacts at a networking event you may find that straight away there’s something you might want to explore working together on.
“Or you may simply have an interesting conversation, learn something new about another organisation or professional and grow your network of contacts within your industry, local area or shared area of professional interest.
“I’m also a big fan of having a few go to questions to kick off the conversation once you’ve introduced yourself.
“One of my go-tos is “what’s keeping you busy at the moment?” it generally provides an interesting insight into what’s front of mind for the person I’m talking to, and with that potentially some pointers for areas I may be able to help with such connections, recommendations or opportunities to work together.”
2 Plan in advance for the event – Richard Brooks, head of Burton and Cannock divisions of GBCC
“One of the common mistakes networkers do is that they forget to plan in advance.
“Before attending an event, request a delegate list from the organiser and see if you have connected with the delegates before. Also don’t forget to get your LinkedIn QR codes ready and to learn more about the businesses attending”
3 Always know your company and its offering. - Joanna Lee – Mills, Partner at Shakespeare Matineau
“Always know what your business can and cannot offer and don’t make false promises. This will maximise your chances of finding an opportunity to collaborate. Also make sure to follow up and deliver on any promises you’ve made.”
4 Utilise the Chamber directory – Chris Brewerton, head of Sutton Coldfield, Lichfield & Tamworth divisions of GBCC.
“The GBCC has a dedicated networking directory for its members which comprises of many business contacts.
“As a member, you can utilise this directory to your advantage. Reach out to businesses you don’t know and meet with them as fellow Chamber members if you don’t get a chance to attend an event.
“Always think long term. To get the full benefit, build strong relationships within the business community over a 9 to 12 month period and reap your rewards”
5 Select events that are relevant to your business – Russ Ashman, head of new business at GBCC
“There are many networking events around everywhere. The Chamber itself organises around 200 every year. Attending each and every event will almost be a mission impossible.
“However, you can always select the events that would give you the best prospects. The Chamber organises many divisional and networking events focused on businesses of a certain area.
“We also host Global Trade Conferences and Business Expos to appeal to the wider Birmingham and international clients as well. Hence, make sure that you carefully pick the events that will suit best for your business needs to align with the busy schedules."
6 If you agree to go an event, go! – Jim Bourne, senior relationships manager at GBCC
“If you register your participation to an event, make sure you turn up! Networking events often have limited participation opportunities, making you a valuable asset to the event and its proceedings.
“However in the event of an unforeseen circumstances you cannot attend, let the organisers know!”
7 Cross referencing may not provide instant opportunities, but it will get you genuine contacts – Neil Thorogood, business consultant at Thorogood Associates
“Endeavour to help others through networking. Cross referring may not provide instant opportunities for you but it will develop genuine, longer term relationships that will lead to new business in time.
“And when it does, be proactive and carry out any promises that you
have made. If you promise to connect to someone, ensure you do.”
8 Talk to the person who is standing alone – Agata Walker, Marketing Manager at Nowcomm
“Always talk to the person who is standing alone. They will aways be happy to talk to you! If you find it hard to engage someone in a conversion, start with a statement.
“Statements like ‘this painting really confuses me’ or ‘I can’t believe how crowded the train is today’ are invitations to share curiosities. The business will come later.”
9 Don’t be shy! – Gary Birch, head of relationships at GBCC
“Attending your very first networking event can be a daunting task. But you can get an extra bit of assistance from the event organisers.
“Ask others to introduce you if your not confident to launch straight in. They will be able to signpost you to prospective individuals and they might even introduce you to people.”
10 Always say something specific so people can remember you - Jayne Hume, relationship manager at GBCC
“During events, you will meet a lot of people and it would be nearly impossible to know their names and designations. This will be the same for you too.
“So make sure that you say something specific about yourself and your business to make people remember you by.”
11 Spend time on others, not on yourself – Mandy Haque, international director at GBCC
“Always do your best to know what people are offering rather than offering them your business.
“Spend time to be interested in people and ask them relevant questions. If there isn't anything that you can immediately do, get their contact details. You may need their help in the future or you may meet someone where you can broker the introduction with them.”
12 Don’t forget that everyone is human, just like you! – Sophie Poduval-Morrell, Future Faces manager at GBCC
“During networking, there is nothing wrong on asking personal questions. Everyone is human and networking is not about shop talk. Get to know everyone on a human level.”